Dr. Erasmus Darwin. — Student scribbles on Zoonomia — Family differences attraction and repulsion — The Darwins in this respect — Dr. Erasmus of his sons Mr. Charles and Dr. R. W. — Dr. R W. as to his sons — Charles on his grandfather father brother — Mr. Erasmus on his brother's book — On the à priori — On facts — Darwin's one method — Darwin and Hooker on facts — Family politics — Family religion — Family habits — Family theories — Mr. Darwin's endowments — His Journal — The Zoonomia — Theories of Dr. Erasmus — Paley — Instinct — An idea to Dr. E. — Dugald Stewart — Picture-thinking — Dr. E.'s method — Darwin's doubts — His brave spirit — The theory to his friends — Now — Almost every propos of the grandson has its germ in the grandfather (Krause) — Yet the position of the latter — Byron on — Mr. Lewes also — The greater Newton original Darwinism now to be revived — Dr. E. admirable on design — Charles on cats made by God to play with mice! — Dr. E. on atheism — The apology — But will conclude with a single point followed thoroughly out: the Galapagos — Darwin held to be impregnably fortified there — The Galapagos thrown up to opponents at every turn — But we are not naturalists! — Dr. E. rehabilitates us — Description of the Galapagos from the Journal — The islands their size number position geographical and relative — depth of water and distance between — Climate currents wind — Geology botany zoology — Volcanoes dull sickly vegetation hills craters lava pits heat salt-pools water — Tortoises lizards birds — Quite a region to suggest theory.
Gifford Lecture the Nineteenth.
WHEN we left off on the last occasion we were engaged in drawing illustrations in regard to the source and nature of the doctrine of natural selection from the special theories and peculiar character of Erasmus Darwin the elder. We saw how it was the imagination that predominated whether in the theories or in the man. A curious testimony to this on the part of general readers may be found in the scrawls and scribbles on the University copy of the Zoonomia. Some one has been wicked enough to tear out a good number of pages from one of the volumes. Of scrawls there occur: “Imaginary—Darwin beware! That is the rock you have split upon Hypothesis where other barks as well as yours have been wrecked;” and again “Darwin's dreams!” One writer laments that Erasmus strayed beyond the Botanic Garden; had he not done so” the writer says
“Then disappointment had not marked thy name;
And Darwin's laurels rivalled Newton's fame.”
There may have been remarked a peculiarity in some families according as it shall be the principle of attraction or the principle of repulsion that rules in them. Of some the members are as the Germans say spröde mutually repellent; they have no confidences with each other. That they are sons brothers sisters is in respect of one another a reason for depreciation and disregard almost for offensive familiarity and contempt. They never think of the opinion of one of themselves as an opinion at all; and with one another there is no end to the liberties they take. With others all that is reversed. Their geese are all swans. They support each other. In season and out of season they cry each other up. They never think of the members of other families they never can see anything in them. All on the outside of themselves are the βϵ́βηλοι indifferent people people of no account. Charles Darwin was a loyal modest man who was quite incapable of being unjust to others. Such a trait too is probably to be found more or less in all the Darwins. Still on the whole perhaps the Darwins at least of three generations may be not too unrighteously admitted to have exhibited something of the mutual-admiration principle. The grandfather prints with pride the literary productions of his sons “Mr.” Charles and “Dr. R. W.” Darwin. What a father Dr. R. W. again was to his two sons Erasmus and Charles the latter of them has expressly chronicled in the warmest terms. Of his grandfather he is correspondently eulogistic: “He (the grandfather) had uncommon powers of observation” he says. But as for his father Dr. R. W. Dr. R. W. was to Charles “incomparably the acutest observer he ever knew” “the best judge of character he ever knew” “the wisest man he ever knew;” and he was also as we have seen “the largest man he ever knew!” Of his brother Erasmus the opinion of Charles is that he was the “clearest-headed man whom he had ever known.” Then this Erasmus for his part must be granted to have been equally true to the family principle. When his brother's book the Origin reaches him and he reads it he cannot help exclaiming to the author of it (ii. 233) “I really think it is the most interesting book I ever read.… In fact the à priori reasoning is so entirely satisfactory to me that if the facts won’t fit in why so much the worse for the facts is my feeling.” And here Erasmus as I may observe only expresses the same opinion as I have expressed in regard to his brother's method. There is an à priori theory and then there is a miscellany of remark in regard to facts to support it. Erasmus is very honest in his avowals. The theory is the all and all to him the facts but poor wretches that have only to knock under and adapt themselves. Indeed this opinion about facts does not seem confined to Erasmus the younger; there would appear even some fatality incident to facts so far as they occur in natural history at all. Charles himself avows to his friend Hooker (ii. 45) “It is really disgusting and humiliating to see directly opposite conclusions drawn from the same facts;” to which remark Sir Joseph Hooker's reply must have been peculiar for Charles (ii. 70) rejoins to it “It is a melancholy and I hope not quite true view of yours that facts will prove anything and are therefore superfluous!” But as regards the family there is more than mutual love in it: there are family politics—they are all Whigs; and there is a family religion—they are all we may say in regard to the Creed heterodox. Other things too run in it as a family such as early rising hatred of alcoholic beverages and a practical love of natural history. In fact there can be no doubt that we are right in this that a family agreement down to the most individual particulars was the very hinge as it were on which the whole three of them grandfather father and son turned. The constitution even of their very minds seems to have been pretty well identical. As we have seen the grandfather had an “overpowering tendency to theorize” (i. 6); the father “formed a theory” the son says “for almost everything that occurred” (i. 20); and the son himself as regards hypotheses confesses (i. 103) “I cannot resist forming one on every subject.” Mr. Darwin also admits that the “passion for collecting” was in him “clearly innate;” and again that his “scientific tastes” were certainly innate. In fact there cannot be a doubt that than Charles Darwin there never was a man born with a purer and stronger innate or inherited faculty to observe. Why the love for everything that crawls was so absorbing in him that he put a black beetle into his mouth as another man might put a bon-bon! At Down there was not a bird's nest in his garden or all about that he did not know. Almost it might be said that there was not to be found on his grounds even a single worm that was not his familiar acquaintance. We have many journals of naturalists on scientific voyages but never such a journal as that of Mr. Darwin in the Beagle. It is a practical lesson in geology such as can be got nowhere else even to read it. Then as regards animals and plants during the whole expedition not one sample of the one kind or the other seems to have escaped his recognition. There never was such a brain as that of Charles Darwin stuffed full teeming and running over with a thousand facts that no one before him ever had a mind to think of to notice or to record. Then his ingenuity in adjusting fact to fact or in eliminating contrarieties and contradictions was marvellous—utterly unexampled—such success in these ways was never exhibited in a book before. Fancy the grandfather with similar powers but free from the practice of medicine and the production of poetry what a book the Zoonomia might have been! And see what it is instead! A crude melange of crass theories and undigested inconsistent miscellaneous particulars! The author of it starts with his à priori theory of “all from oysters;” he submits it to the test of his miscellany and that is the result! Fish which are generally suspended in water and swallows which are generally suspended in air have their backs we are told the colour of the distant ground and their bellies that of the sky. Why this? That the swallows may escape hawks which being above them will mistake their backs for the ground while below them they will mistake their bellies for the sky! I suppose it is the pike that as above or below is similarly to be duped of his fish! Dr. Erasmus actually fancies insects to be undoubtedly formed from the sexual appendages of plants the honey-loving stamens and pistils of the flowers as he calls them some acquiring wings others fins and others claws from their ceaseless efforts to procure their food or to secure themselves from injury: “changes” he avers “not more incomprehensible than the transformation of tadpoles into frogs and caterpillars into butterflies!” On another physico-metaphysical conceit of Erasmus Darwin's we have a commentary by Paley. “I am not ignorant” he says (Natural Theology cap. 18) “of the theory which resolves instinct into sensation. Thus the incubation of eggs is accounted for by the pleasure which the bird is supposed to receive from the pressure of the smooth convex surfaces… The affection of viviparous animals for their young is in like manner solved by the relief which they receive in suckling… The salmon's urging her way up the stream of fresh-water rivers is attributed to some gratification or refreshment which in this particular state of the fish's body she receives from the change of element.” It is not worth while quoting what Paley says in answer to all this. The groundless arbitrariness perhaps even the semi-seriousness of such propos cannot escape us. As regards incubation we know it to be a fact that such noxious and poisonous animals as snakes serpents boa-constrictors and cobras will as with a mother's solicitude so obstinately sit on their eggs that they will rather die than leave them. Is such devoted affection in appearance only relief of a colic in fact? If you rescue a young sparrow fallen from the nest and expose it in a cage at your window I wonder if it is only for relief to a pain in the stomach that the she-sparrow and the he-sparrow will for many days cling incessantly to the cage with food in their bills for their little one within it! Dr. Erasmus Darwin ventures even in respect of what is purely metaphysical to tell us what an idea is. To him it is as it were only the stamp on the body of the things without. He defines it “a contraction or motion or configuration of the fibres which constitute the immediate organ of sense.” Of this definition Dugald Stewart remarks that it is “calculated to impose on a very wide circle of readers by the mixture it exhibits of crude and visionary metaphysics” and I think we may without intolerable injustice extend the criticism to all those semi-physical and semi-metaphysical reels in bottles which men like the author of Zoonomia are so innocently busy bee-like to construct. Most unformed men do not reason to call it reason. Proof with them is the instinctive recourse to a picture. They are as Kant has it only on such stage as the Egyptians or the Chinese whose minds as yet are not fine enough for pure notions and can only understand by the help of physical representations—not possibly by the mere letters of an alphabet. They think in tropes they see in metaphors. The circulation of their brains is a circulation in images. Their metaphysics in general are so thickened with physics that they can only settle into what is bizarre and biassed counterfeit and mock. For gold they can only offer us pinckbeck. Dr. Erasmus was a medical man and medical men at least had not always then the advantage of courses in logic metaphysics and morals they had not always then transformed their hieroglyphics into the letters of the alphabet. It is just possible that there is a little of that physical thinking even now-a-days and not on the part of the Bob Sawyers alone.
The procedure of Dr. Erasmus Darwin then is altogether the method and manner of a man who starts with an à priori theory and looks miscellaneously to heaven and earth and the sea and all that in them is for illustrations mere pictures in proof. As Dr. Asa Gray objects to the natural selection of his grandson in all that quasi-ratiocination there is no point of departure undeniably and manifestly made good as a vera causa. Or as Professor Sedgwick similarly objected there is no movement on the Baconian principle no regular induction from point to point and step to step accurately precisely and convincingly carried out. “Many of his wide conclusions are built upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved.” There are times when in respect of his own work such objections start up in all their force even to Mr. Charles Darwin himself almost as definite barriers to his own advance. To Asa Gray he fully admits (ii. 217) “that there are very many difficulties not satisfactorily explained by my theory.” These difficulties he confesses to Jenyns (ii. 219) “stagger him to this very day.” Even to Mr. Huxley as we saw he writes “I entirely agree with you that the difficulties on my notions are terrific” (ii. 354). In regard to these same difficulties we have this further admission to Dr. Asa Gray (ii. 315) “I could myself” says Charles “write a more damning review”—of his own book that is—“than has as yet appeared.” Whoever can read between the lines however in these writings of Mr. Charles Darwin's will have no difficulty in discovering that he (Darwin) was despite his doubts as brave a man as ever lived. He cowers beneath his checks at times; but ever he whispers to himself like a true Englishman as he is “It's dogged as does it!” It is in few things more interesting than to watch him during the incubation of his theory in his various letters to his chosen friends. His despondent moods are interesting and ever again his renewed courage. But what perhaps is still more interesting is the persistent resolution he manifests to win these friends over together with the shrewd almost insidious but never ignoble adaptations and accommodations he sets into operation according to the peculiar character of each. Lyell Hooker Huxley Carpenter Gray are all most delicately handled. He says once to one of these “Often and often a cold shudder has run through me and I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy … but investigators of truth like Lyell and Hooker cannot be wholly wrong and therefore I rest in peace.” Still I know not that that peace was a well-assured one. There is ample evidence in these letters that Lyell Carpenter Gray and we may say all his less-noted friends were never believers in his theory pure and simple. We have seen difficulties called ominous even with Mr. Huxley; and as regards Sir Joseph Hooker it may be that he will march with his friend to the very end still—not that these letters show him to have been ever much more assured than Lyell or Gray or the rest were. And how is it now that the Origin of Species has been thirty years before the public? As regards the great outside world while still caviare to the orthodox it is understood among those who are above the Bible that natural selection is a demonstrated and established doctrine. It is not so certain however that as much is understood among experts. I don't know but what we begin to hear murmurs in camp. I cannot follow this farther now however. I will only call to mind the last Presidential Address of the British Association and its warnings against incautious assertions as to organic life.
And not quite to be misunderstood I will add this whatever I have said I have no intention to deny that there may be at this moment many and good and worthy men believers both in Mr. Darwin and their Bible. To me however the consideration of his grandfather's theories as well in themselves as in their fortune and fate give if not warrant and assurance at least suspicion of a foundation of sand. With the single exception of what is meant by the one word “modification” I know of no genetic doctrine in the works of the grandson that will not be found at greater or less length suggested mooted propounded discussed in the works of the grandfather. Dr. Ernst Krause wrote in the specially Darwinian number of the evolutionary journal Kosmos an essay “The Scientific Works of Erasmus Darwin” which Mr. Charles Darwin so much relished that he wrote Dr. Krause “thanking him cordially … and asking his permission to publish an English translation of the essay.” In this he was joined by his brother Erasmus the younger. Dr. Krause is a foremost evolutionist and with much else writes a special work Charles Darwin and his Relation to Germany. The translation in question was entrusted to Mr. W. S. Dallas also a distinguished Darwinian who executes the admirable index to the Variation of Animals and Plants the translation of Fritz Müller's Für Darwin and the glossary to the sixth edition of the Origin. To the resultant book by Mr. Dallas Mr. Darwin contributes in the shape of a “preliminary notice” more than one half of the whole. “Many persons” says Mr. Darwin in his autobiography “have been much interested by this little life and I am surprised that only 800 or 900 copies were sold.” Other book-makers may be surprised but hardly for Mr. Darwin's reason! From all this I think we may conclude that Dr. Krause can claim an absolute Darwinian approbation and endorsement when in said little book he writes of Mr. Charles Darwin that he “has succeeded to an intellectual inheritance and carried out a programme sketched forth and left behind by his grandfather. Almost every single work of the younger Darwin may be paralleled by at least a chapter in the works of his ancestor … heredity adaptation the protective arrangements of animals and plants sexual selection insectivorous plants and the analysis of the emotions and sociological impulses; nay even the studies on infants are to be found already discussed in the writings of the elder Darwin … who a Lamarckian before Lamarck first established a complete system of the theory of evolution” Of the parallel between the younger and the elder Darwin that is to say more than even I mooted and in such circumstances as to give an authority to the general position utterly beyond dispute. Are we to suppose then that the course of literary and philosophical history in Great Britain has gone all wrong? Before the culmination and success of Mr. Charles Darwin whether in literature or philosophy the name of Erasmus Darwin had pretty well ceased to be heard of. As we knew that there had been a John Philips and a Splendid Shilling or a Scotchman Wilkie and a thing called Epigoniad or a Bishop Wilkins and his Discovery of a New World so we knew of a Botanic Garden and a Zoonomia; but as we only knew of the former so we only knew of the latter: we had never read either. As regards Zoonomia we had taken Dugald Stewart and Dr. Thomas Brown's word for it: it was something merely crude and visionary the mushroom product of uninitiated crassitude; and as for the Botanic Garden we had perhaps heard the recitation from it of “Eliza on the wood-crowned height” or of the grand passage “Roll on ye stars! exult in youthful prime” or of the melancholy passage “So the sad mother at the noon of night;” and had thought to ourselves always how happy was that line of Byron's that dubbed Erasmus but “a mighty master of unmeaning rhyme!”1 In fact on the whole matter we just took it for granted that when Mr. Lewes said “tawdry splendour gained him a tawdry reputation” which in another respect proved “equally noisy and fleeting”—we just took it for granted that when this was said all was said and that as regards Dr. Erasmus Darwin we might with perfect tranquillity leave him henceforth quite undisturbed in the limbo of other poetasters and philosophasters. If however we are to believe the Herr Dr. Krause all this is wrong—all this is a sin and a shame and a disgrace—all this is a flagrant injustice to one of the greatest scientific discoverers that ever lived—a discoverer that anticipated the discoveries of even the illustrious Charles Darwin whom it has not been esteemed excessive praise of late to style “The Greater Newton.” Nay there are others it seems who surpass even the Herr Dr. Krause in his admiration of Dr. Erasmus. Dr. Krause tells us himself of a wish seriously expressed on the part of some to revive original Darwinism now. It is not so with him however let him admire the elder Darwin and Darwinism as he may. On the contrary any such wish to him “shows a weakness of thought and a mental anachronism which no one can envy.” And yet I for my part after all that even Krause himself has told me know not that in reference to the origin and transformations of plants and animals the thought and thoughts of the grandson differ from those of the grandfather unless in so far as the former (Charles) unlike the latter rejects the interposition of a designing cause: Charles Darwin has only one device for the creation of that whole marvellous panorama of life on earth; and in two words it is individual difference! I for my part then who stand up here for the certainty of Natural Theology and the cogency of all its arguments ontological cosmological teleological must believe Erasmus Darwin the grandfather to have been in his reverence for design much nearer the truth than Charles Darwin the grandson: I cannot forget the many passages I have seen in the former expressive of his deep sense of the reality in this world of an organization on ideas. All that contrasts to me wonderfully with the strangely young the innocently simple admissions which as fruit of adequate reflection the grandson so unmisgivingly imparts to the inexperienced youths who write to him for guidance. He seems to have been greatly exercised in mind that given a beneficent and omnipotent Deity flies should feed within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice (ii. 312). The grandfather for his part though like the grandson he “disbelieved in any revelation” could never see his way to give up his faith in the existence of God. He oven published an ode on the folly of Atheism of which this is the first verse:—
“Dull Atheist could a dizzy dance
Of atoms lawless hurled
Construct so wonderful so wise
So harmonized a world?”
And now I have to say a word of apology. I cannot do that justice in these lectures to the whole theme of Darwinism for which I had prepared myself. I have by me one way and another not much less than a hundred and a half of closely-written quarto pages of extracts and memoranda which were to serve me as mere core and nucleus to a complete statement on the whole subject. The attempt to carry out this programme gave me great pain and cost me much anxiety for long inasmuch as with the space at my command I was simply endeavouring to reconcile impossibilities. I do not believe that even the whole course of lectures would have enabled me to exhaust the materials I had gathered. What I had to content myself with in the end was simply to sit down and write according as the information in my head prompted me. Even to turn up my authorities proved for the most part as distressing and as futile as to operate on a needle in a bundle of hay. It is for that then I apologise—that I have been able to present to you the subject only in a certain miscellaneousness.
In conclusion however I will now take up one point and follow it out. Every one who has at all approached this subject has heard of the Galapagos the Galapagos Islands or the Galapagos Archipelago. In the index to the Life and Letters the fauna of them are named “the starting-point of investigations into the origin of species;” and Mr. Darwin himself more than once avows that it was what he had observed there led him to study the origin of species (i. 82 ii. 23 iii. 159); while it is well known that the adherents of Mr. Darwin generally throw up the bastion of the Galapagos as a barrier so strong that no enemy can carry it. But that being so it is evident that there may be that there which if seen and understood would convince us too. We too have no interest but the truth. I for my part am quite willing to be convinced if there be any evidence to convince whether in the Galapagos or anywhere else.
For the information which is necessary to us here we have to turn to that admirable volume which Mr. Darwin names his Journal of Researches. I have already mentioned how it is a work singular and single in its excellence. Mr. Darwin devotes one whole chapter in it the seventeenth to the Galapagos Archipelago; and it is to that chapter I have to direct your special attention. We have not the advantage of either the knowledge or ability of Mr. Darwin; but if these islands were of such a nature as to impress Mr. Darwin only in one direction surely we must expect them in the same direction more or less to impress us too. No doubt there is an objection not unfrequently taken which would summarily sist the appeal to the possibility of any such influence for us: we are not naturalists and only naturalists can judge of what is concerned in the Galapagos! Mr. Darwin himself however writes to Asa Gray: “I think it of importance that my notions should be read by intelligent men accustomed to scientific argument though not naturalists.” There is to be sure a certain presumption after all in the assumption and in the proceeding to judgment on the assumption of just as much as that—but perhaps a reference to the grandfather will put us right again and pretty well confirm to us some locus standi in as great a matter as the present. We have seen that in view of its excellence even in the direction of the grandson whose peculiar lines it precisely anticipated it has been seriously proposed to restore the elder Darwinism. Now of the Bible of that Darwinism the Zoonomia this is the Dedication: “To all those who study the operations of the mind as a science or who practise medicine as a profession.” If only the word “practise” had been in the past tense one might have been excused for the thought that in no very distant regard Dr. Darwin had been to say so almost prophetically personal! Ne sutor supra crepidam is of course the rule; but it need not prove exceptionless. I have the idea that Mr. Huxley would look a little torvous did any man dispute his right to a judgment on Descartes!
The Galapagos are a group of small islands of various sizes and some thirteen in number of which only two seem unnamed. Six of them may be regarded as outlying and seven central. Of the former on the north three as scarcely referred to by Mr. Darwin may be left out of count. On the east Chatham Island is distant (say) 22 miles and on the south Charles Island 32 from the nearest central island. Twelve miles may be the greatest and two or three the least distance from one to the other among the central islands themselves. These measures however are dependent on Mr. Darwin's own map and scale in his Journal and cannot be considered rigorously exact. The situations and especially the distances in each other's regard are the important points in the consideration so far. We advance to a second important point when we recognise the position of these islands to be right under the equator in the Pacific Ocean and (the third important point) at a distance of between five or six hundred miles west of South America. The climate of these islands despite their position on the equator is represented as far from being excessively hot the great Polar current from the south namely surrounding them with a sea of a singularly low temperature. For winds these islands are exposed of course to the southern Trades which blow over them as far as four degrees farther north; but above a certain height they are apt to be overhung with vapours. It is only under these vapours and especially to windward that vegetation can be said to thrive for everywhere else these islands are of a monotonously repulsive sterile aspect. They are all volcanic and supposed to be geologically recent. Some of the craters surmounting the larger islands are of immense size and they rise to a height of between three and four thousand feet. The flanks of these as they rise are studded by innumerable orifices and there must be in the whole archipelago at least two thousand craters. These craters have their southern sides either much lower than the other sides or quite broken down and removed in consequence of the combined action of the Pacific swell and the southern Trades. Landing on these islands nothing can be less inviting than the first appearance says Mr. Darwin. A broken field of black basaltic lava thrown into the most rugged waves and crossed by great fissures is everywhere covered by stunted sunburnt brushwood which shows little signs of life. The dry and parched surface heated by the noonday sun gives to the air a close and sultry feeling like that from a stove: one fancies even that the bushes smell unpleasantly. The brushwood appears from a short distance as leafless as our trees during winter even when it is in full leaf nay for the most part even when it is in flower. The entire surface he says once seems to have been permeated like a sieve by the subterranean vapours: here and there the lava while soft has been blown into great bubbles; and in other parts the tops of caverns similarly formed have fallen in leaving circular pits with steep sides. Of two of the islands Mr. Darwin reports: “Both are covered with immense deluges of black naked lava which have flowed either over the rims of the great caldrons like pitch over the rim of a pot in which it has been boiled or have burst forth from the smaller orifices on the flanks; in their descent they have spread over miles of the sea-coast.” “Scrambling over the rough surface” of this extraordinary region is most fatiguing and Mr. Darwin describes how horribly disappointing it is when “choked with dust” and thirst one “hurries down the cindery slope eagerly to drink” from some solitary pool over a crater one finds he has in his mouth only what is “salt as brine.” As one walks one finds the rocks abound with great black lizards between three and four feet long and on the hills an ugly yellowish-brown species equally common.” On one occasion “as I was walking along” he says “I met two large tortoises each of which must have weighed at least two hundred pounds (more than 14 stone): one was eating a piece of cactus and as I approached it stared at me and slowly stalked away; the other gave a deep hiss and drew in its head. These huge reptiles surrounded by the black lava the leafless shrubs and large cacti seemed to my fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull-coloured birds cared no more for me than they did for the great tortoises.” We have a great deal more from Mr. Darwin about these huge hideous reptiles whether tortoises or lizards that is very interesting and strange. Both seem to swarm. The tortoises for food are open to capture at any time. “It is said that formerly single vessels have taken away as many as seven hundred and that the ship's company of a frigate some years since brought down in one day two hundred tortoises to the beach.” Vapour-crowned volcanic heights studded with orifices; miles and miles of black lava red scoriæ and dusty cinders; great black or yellow-hideous lizards sleeping in the sun; huge monsters of tortoises lazily crawling along paths they have worn through centuries to where water lies: how startling it must be in the midst of such lonely weird sights as these to come suddenly on the ghastly gleaming skull of a buccaneer captain who had been murdered by his crew!
One cannot wonder that such a region as this went to the heart of Mr. Darwin and remained ever afterwards with him a constant problem of the most intent and absorbing interest—one cannot wonder that it was here he found the motive for his peculiar theory. The spot was solitary and remote; and what life there was upon it seemed to have for him only a strange unnatural and old-world look. The possible influence of isolation simply as isolation would probably first occur to him; and then perhaps the question if the isolation had been the source of so many changed forms how was it that there were others which had remained seemingly unchanged? Such conjectures appear at least not alien to the genius of a Darwin; but we must postpone our further consideration of these matters till the next week.
From the book: